By Matt Perosi
The year 2017 was not a good year especially for large brick and mortar stores. According to the financial services company Credit Suisse, the number of store closures was predicted to exceed the previous record set in 2008 during the recession.
More purchases are shifting online because shopping is faster and easier. Shopping simply isn't fun anymore. Your age group doesn’t matter. Everyone longs for a more convenient shopping experience that will free up time.
It's been 20 years since retail sales started migrating online, yet the jewelry industry continues to lag behind other retail sectors. Originally, it was thought that consumers would not purchase high value jewelry online because it needed to be touched and viewed in-person. Companies like Blue Nile, James Allen, Whiteflash, and Amazon proceeded to sell jewelry at every price point. Over time, each one of those websites has evolved into something user friendly, feature rich, educational and even fun to use.
With regard to high-ticket items, consumers will make the purchase if they feel secure in the belief that what they purchase is what they, in fact, will get. With this in mind, successful websites have invested a lot into photography and video presentations, plenty of online documentation, past user reviews, and customer service techniques. Successful online retailers have also figured out how to continue engaging consumers over time through both social media and a website to keep them connected and focused on that inevitable big-ticket purchase. This is something retail jewelers need to learn and implement.
Having an ecommerce website won't shorten the consumer's buying cycle. The cycle of first thought, to research, to purchase, still exists online the same as it would in the physical stores. Building online success requires that you come up with ways to extend your in-person sales techniques into a digital medium. In specific terms, this means your website must have all the information you'd tell someone in-person in either a written or video format, preferably both. Instead of follow-up telephone calls with customers, you continue to engage with them through email or social media. Online ads should also be used to maintain top of mind awareness. I've had experience with financing for website projects so drop me an email if you'd like a referral to a reasonable business funding company.
Jewelers I speak to often don't understand the importance of social networks as customer engagement tools. They simply view them as advertising platforms. Facebook is the most popular social platform worldwide yet few jewelers are using it to engage consumers. Jewelers can build the long-term customer relationship through friendly Facebook conversations and comments. Those engagements can lead to trust and the security that they need when purchasing big-ticket items online.
Discovering your own ways to mix your website and social engagement to build your online success will take time and money. With all the time and technology involved, ecommerce businesses have the similar operational overhead as their brick and mortar counterparts. Building a website to satisfy current consumer expectations takes time. Ecommerce isn't in the future anymore; that future is here and it is growing. Store closings are a symptom of the problem. Brick and mortar stores do have an advantage over ecommerce-only-stores, because they can tap into the full range of online and offline marketing methods that will support in-person sales while also supporting worldwide ecommerce sales.
If your foot traffic is declining, and if ecommerce isn't in your future, then you need to reinvent your store as something more fun for your customers. Reinvention could mean moving or remodeling your store. You could start small with a concerted social engagement effort. Online contests and daily questions could build your local customer interest, build community involvement, and get them back in the store again. This type of social media management can't be outsourced and should be managed by one of your knowledgeable staff.
If ecommerce is in your future, plan your long term goal of big-ticket sales but start with smaller ticket items. Lower price items have a shorter sales cycle and can trigger impulse buying. The experience you gain with lower ticket items will help you hone your online sales skills and build towards the larger ecommerce project. If you haven't already begun your ecommerce strategy, then I recommend you start now. With dedication and hard work, your ecommerce site will be ready for the 2018 holiday season.